Sunday, June 14, 2009

potato bugs

The potato bugs are back. Colorado potato beetles to be more exact. Leptinotarsa decemlineata. In case you haven’t encountered them, I can’t image any gardener raising potatoes who has not, they have bright yellow/orange bodies with five brown stripes, and are about the size of a fingernail.

They are a menace to potato growers, whether you have a few plants in your backyard, eight long rows in your garden as I do, or several hundred acres, true of many Wisconsin potato growers. Given an opportunity, these hungry buggers will eat every last potato leaf leaving behind a few naked stems and no hope of a potato crop.

What to do? Well, when I was a kid, we’d walk the potato rows and pick off the adult potato bugs one by one and drop them into a little can with a couple of inches of kerosene on the bottom. Does in the little potato-eaters real well. Sort of labor intensive though if you have five acres or more of potatoes, as we did.

I still walk my potato rows, twice a day this time of a year, if I can. Today, I wear gloves and when I spot a potato bug, I give it a gentle squeeze and drop it to the ground. Well maybe not so gentle as I have no love for potato bugs.

All kinds of sprays, dusts and other potato beetle killers have come on the market. The result: some of the toughest, most resistant potato bugs on the planet.

Some years ago I remember seeing a potato bug killer advertised in a magazine. Guaranteed to work it said, or your money back. Send five dollars. Someone I know sent in the money. In a few days the bug killer arrived. It consisted of two small blocks of wood. The instructions said, place the potato bug on block number one. Strike block number one with block number two. By golly, it worked. Every time. But you had to work quickly because potato bugs have a tendency to not stay put on a block of wood.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice: not likely.


Writing From Your Life. The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI. August 2-8.

Writing From Your Life. Sheboygan Public Library, August 23, P.M.

Writing From Your Life. The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI. October 17. A.M. & P.M.


June 30, 7:00 P.M. Prairie du Sac Library. Old Farm.

July 16, 2:00 P.M. Wisconsin Historical Society Museum, Casper Jaggi, Master Cheese Maker.

August 15. Creekside Books, Cedarburg. 12-3:00. Old Farm.

August 16. Railroad Days, Stonefield Village, Cassville.

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